On April 23, voters in the coastal city of Ashiya, Japan, elected the country’s youngest mayor in history.
Ryosuke Takashima, 26, ran on a broad platform that vowed to improve all residents’ quality of life. Under the slogan “An Ashiya where you can live actively at any age,” his promises ranged from free medical care for those under 18 to tackling low birth rates and the decline in the working-age population.
He also campaigned on green infrastructure planning.
“With all of you, I want to make Ashiya the best place to live in the world. Also, when you think ‘Takashima, this is not right,’ please do not hesitate to speak out,” Takashima said after his election.
Takashima reportedly received over 46% of the votes, beating incumbent Mai Ito and two other rivals. This made him Japan’s youngest mayor ever, breaking the record of Kotaro Shishida who was elected at 27 to lead Musashimurayama in 1994.
Last Sunday’s victory distinguishes Takashima in a crowd of conservative, older men who dominate Japanese politics.
The parliament, for instance, is primarily composed of members aged 50 to 70, and 75% of them are males.
“What matters is what I’ll achieve, not my age,” Takashima said. “But my youth means I have more energy to be more active than anyone else.”
Originally from Minoh in Osaka Prefecture, Takashima became interested in governance from an early age. He was in elementary school when he heard that a young mayor had brought young families back and sparked renewed energy in a nearby city.
Those who have known Takashima attested to his good character.
Tatsuya Kimura, one of his high school teachers, described him as “the type who listens to people,” according to NHK.
While in high school, Takashima volunteered in areas affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011. He listened to the vulnerable, helping ease their burden during the difficult time.
Takashima attended the University of Tokyo but quit after three months.
He then moved to the U.S. to study at Harvard, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering in 2022.
Since 2015, Takashima has also headed Ryugaku Fellowship, a Kobe-based nonprofit that helps Japanese students enroll in overseas universities. “I help students live and learn proactively to solve real-world issues,” he wrote on his LinkedIn profile.
Takashima became interested in municipal leadership while interning at the Ashiya municipal government in 2019. He finally moved to the city after graduating from Harvard, and the rest is history.
“I haven’t accomplished anything yet,” Takashima said.
I believe this result (election) is a sign of high expectations. It is a humbling and exciting feeling to be able to take on the responsibility of city administration. I hereby pledge to be closer to you than anyone else, to work closer with you than anyone else, and to make Ashiya City the most wonderful city in the world.
Interestingly, Takashima was not the only Gen Z candidate to secure victory in the local elections. A 26-year-old YouTuber who officially campaigned as “Shin the Hiratsuka YouTuber” won a seat in the city council of Hiratsuka in Kanagawa Prefecture.